Carlo Ancelotti lost his bearings driving to Stamford Bridge for yesterday's press conference. He took a wrong turn inside the ground in his black Mercedes while puffing on a cigarette and, as he turned his car around, he was mobbed by Italians trying to take his photo on their mobile phones and had to abandon his car outside an entrance to the club's offices. His team need to show a better sense of direction tonight.
The visit of Jose Mourinho's Internazionale provides Ancelotti with the opportunity to claim a marquee victory over the club's former manager. If Chelsea overturn the 2-1 defeat suffered in the first leg it would quickly become regarded as one of the great European nights in Stamford Bridge history. The contest also gives him a chance to prove that he has made a lasting impact on this group of international players, most of whom played with distinction under Mourinho.
Ancelotti chose the eve of Mourinho's return to declare that Chelsea are now a team that he has successfully fashioned in the image of the owner, Roman Abramovich. One of the reasons Chelsea's Russian owner sacked the Special One in September 2007 was because the team were too dull and predictable, concerned only with winning. Ancelotti was charged in the summer with adding more style to Chelsea's football, a challenge the Italian believes he has met already.
"We have changed some things and I think now this team has an identity," Ancelotti said yesterday. "We have to keep improving this identity. Our identity is to play football, to keep possession, to play attacking football, to keep control of the game with possession of the ball. Roman wants to see the team in his identity and you have to ask him if that is the case. But I think the team now is playing with his identity."
Ancelotti's claim is backed up by the facts. His team have scored on average 2.38 goals per Premier League game, compared to an average of 1.79 under Mourinho. Chelsea have failed to score only once in the 44 games they have played this season. Not surprisingly, perhaps, they are also leaking more goals than they have done for six seasons but such is the price of a more entertaining approach.
Chelsea's defensive cause is not helped by having to play third-choice keeper Ross Turnbull, after injuries to Petr Cech and Henrique Hilario. Ancelotti said: "Turnbull is a confident lad and we have confidence in him." Ashley Cole's broken ankle also means Yuri Zhirkov will start at left-back.
Despite the injuries, Ancelotti is confident the collective spirit he has been at pains to foster will see them home against the best team in Serie A. Inter have the advantage but Chelsea were the better team in the first leg at San Siro three weeks ago and were unfortunate not to come away with at least a draw.
Ancelotti said: "We know we have to do our best. We have to show our best football, better organisation and better concentration. If we do that, we'll win." Confident words from the manager, who refused to sling any mud in Mourinho's direction. Florent Malouda, who joined Chelsea shortly before the Portuguese was sacked, said the team are intent on making it an emotional return for Mourinho, but a wonderful victory for Ancelotti.
The Frenchman, who excelled in Saturday's 4-1 victory over West Ham United, said: "We're not thinking about the history. We're trying to make history. What happened in the past, I would say, we don't care. We're just looking to win and go through. I hope it will be a great result for Chelsea and for the manager."
Three key contests
RICARDO CARVALHO v DIEGO MILITO
Carvalho, who won the Champions League with Mourinho's Porto in 2004, has recovered from his hamstring injury and is set to return in place of Alex. The Portuguese stopper's greater European experience could be the decisive factor. Argentinian international Milito is sure to start up front for Inter, having scored in the first leg.
FLORENT MALOUDA v MAICON
Chelsea's interest in Inter's Brazilian defender Maicon will multiply if he can keep their in-form winger Malouda quiet tonight. The French international tore through West Ham on Saturday, and will be hoping to impress having played the first leg as Chelsea's emergency left-back.
ROSS TURNBULL v JULIO CESAR
Injuries to Petr Cech and Henrique Hilario mean former Middlesbrough reserve Turnbull is thrown into the deep end. When his agent told him of Chelsea's interest in the summer, Turnbull said: "Are you winding me up?" Chelsea fans may have had the same thought when they heard he was likely to face Inter, for whom Cesar has played 33 times in the Champions League.Reuse content